United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
Deavers Magistrate Judge
OPINION AND ORDER
L. GRAHAM UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Hannah Corbin brings this suit for hostile work environment,
gender discrimination and retaliation against her former
employer Steak n Shake, Inc. Corbin alleges that three
coworkers sexually harassed her by making repeated comments
about her body and that one of the coworkers made unwanted
physical contact with her. She further alleges that the
harassment was sufficiently severe and intolerable as to
result in her constructive discharge.
matter is before the court on Steak n Shake's motion for
summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the court
grants in part and denies in part the motion for summary
Corbin was 16 years old when she began working at a Steak n
Shake restaurant in Newark, Ohio in mid-July 2015.
See Corbin Dep. at 21; Morlen Aff. at ¶ 1. She
worked as a server, and her job duties included greeting
customers, taking orders, serving food and cleaning tables.
Id. at 36-37. Corbin worked about 25 hours per week.
She worked primarily on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and
sporadically on weekday evenings. Id. at 29-30.
was interviewed and hired by service manager Sean McLeish.
Id. at 23. Defendant Michael Simon was the
store's General Manager. Simon did not interact often
with Corbin because he worked normal weekday shifts.
See Simon Aff. at ¶ 5.
testified that she was subjected to sex-based comments right
from the start of her employment. On the day of her
interview, she was told by two male employees that McLeish
liked to hire “pretty young females.” Corbin Dep.
at 40. She was told this by Will McCann and Robert
“Bubba” Travis, who held positions of hourly
production associates. Id.; Simon Aff. at ¶¶
and Travis regularly made comments to Corbin during the
course of her roughly eight-month period of employment at
Steak n Shake. According to Corbin, “Every day I would
go in and they would make a new remark about my butt or my
boobs or how thick I was. . . . They would make googly eyes .
. . . [and] stare at me until I got out of sight.”
Corbin Dep. at 40. Corbin characterized this behavior as
“never ending.” Id. Corbin testified
that a third coworker, Logan Brown, who was also an hourly
production associate, would sometimes join in on the
comments. Id. at 113-14.
had a boyfriend and she hoped that telling McCann, Travis and
Brown of him would cause them to stop their behavior, but it
did not. Id. at 40. Upon finding out that
Corbin's boyfriend was an African-American, they made
comments about this too. Referring to the black pants which
employees had to wear, they said that they were “black
from the waist down” and asked if this gave them a
chance with Corbin. Id. at 40-41, 114-15. Corbin
tried to “brush them off.” Id. at 46.
After they made such comments two or three times, Corbin told
them that she would have her boyfriend come into the store;
they then stopped making those types of race-based sexual
comments. Id. at 46.
December 2015 and early 2016, McCann made physical contact
with Corbin. As Corbin described it, “Will started to
smack my butt. Like, I would walk by him through the back
line, to get something. And he would smack my butt and take
his hand away so quick that I would just turn around and no
one would be there.” Id. at 41. This happened
three to five times over the course of about a month.
Id. at 47. On one occasion, McCann also rubbed
Corbin's neck with his hands. Id. at 41-42.
McCann ceased the physical contact after Corbin stated her
intention to tell her boyfriend and parents. Id. at
the physical contact stopped, McCann and Travis continued
making remarks to Corbin. “[T]he comments, they were
every day. They would say something every time I walked
by.” Id. at 42. McCann and Travis also
continued staring at her. “They would be looking
through the window, the food window, while I'm cleaning
my tables. And I would turn around and they would just be
staring at me.” Id.
March 2016, Corbin complained of the harassment by McCann and
Travis to Simon. Corbin Dep. at 64-66; Dean Aff. at ¶
10. Corbin does not recall exactly when she made her
complaint but she does remember the situation in which it
arose. As she was in the back of the store picking up
cardboard, Simon and McCann came in and McCann said to Simon,
“Isn't that a nice view?” Corbin Dep. at 65.
Simon “nodded his head” and “proceeded on
like it was no big deal.” Id.
used this occasion to tell Simon of the verbal harassment she
had received from McCann and Travis. Id. at 65-66.
She told him that she did not like “how Will
talk[ed]” to her and that McCann and Travis had made
“sexual comments” to her. Id at 66. According
to Corbin, Simon did not believe her and said he “had
no proof” of the harassment before him. Id. at
66, 74. Corbin told Simon that she wanted “to call
corporate about it” since he would not resolve the
problem. Id. at 66. This prompted Simon to provide
her with the telephone number for the corporate hotline.
corporate hotline was one of the avenues identified in Steak
n Shake's “Youth at Work Initiative” policy
for reporting harassment or discrimination. Corbin Dep, Ex.
B. The policy informed employees under 18 years old of their
right to be free from harassment and discrimination at work
and encouraged them and their parents to report such conduct
immediately. This same policy, including the avenues for
reporting, was repeated in Steak n Shake's Sexual
Harassment Policy and its Associate Handbook. Id.,
Exs. C & D.
called the corporate hotline on either the same day she
talked to Simon or the day after. Corbin Dep. at 66-67. She
told the corporate representative that she had been subjected
to sexual comments and that a coworker had “smack[ed]
her butt.” Id. at 67. According to Corbin, the
representative stated that he would be in contact with her
later, but she did not hear back from him. Id.
to Steak n Shake, it has no record in its database that
Corbin called the corporate hotline. See Sanders
Aff. at ¶ 4. Further, Simon denies that Corbin reported
the alleged harassment to him. See Simon Aff. at
mid-March 2016, Corbin notified Steak n Shake that she wanted
to be taken off the work schedule. Corbin Dep. at 50-52;
Simon Aff. at ¶ 11. She did this by submitting an
electronic message to the store's internal messaging
system stating that she was no longer to be placed on the
schedule. Simon Aff. at ¶ 11. Her notice was accompanied
by a request that she be placed on “pickup shift”
status. Id. What Corbin meant by the request was
that she would be available to cover for someone else who
could not work their shift. Corbin Dep. at 51. If an employee
needed someone to cover their shift, they could inform others
through text message, an application on their electronic
device called Hot Schedule, or the store's internal
messaging system. Id. at 51-52; Simon Aff. at ¶
testified that, at the time she submitted her pickup shift
request, she did not want to work at Steak n Shake anymore.
Corbin Dep. at 51. She stated: “I didn't want to be
completely without a job. But I didn't want to work there
anymore. So I was trying to wean myself off.”
interpreted Corbin's message concerning her work schedule
as a resignation. Simon Aff. at ¶ 11 (“I took this
message to mean that she was giving notice of her resignation
and moving to pickup shift only status for the duration of
the notice period.”). He instructed the employee in
charge of scheduling, Brandi Genzen, to remove Corbin from
the schedule, and he entered ...